“Prosecution not in ‘public interest'” with VIDEO

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Australian Broadcasting Corporation


Broadcast: 22/05/2013

Reporter: John Stewart

The NSW DPP says the prosecution of a school principal who sacked a teacher for abusing students but didn’t inform police, would not be in the public interest.


TONY JONES, PRESENTER: In the 1970s Brother Anthony Whelan was principal of St Patrick’s College at Sutherland in Sydney. He sacked a teacher for abusing a series of boys at the school, but he did not inform the police. The victims say that if the police had been informed, the teacher may have been prevented from abusing other children. The NSW Director of Public Prosecutions says that prosecuting the former principal is not in the public interest. But abuse survivors say that justice has not been done. John Stewart reports.

JOHN STEWART, REPORTER: Brother Anthony Whelan was one of the most senior Catholic education officials in NSW. In 2008 he received an Order of Australia for services to education.

ANTHONY WHELAN, CATHOLIC BROTHER (Catholic Leadership Video): … was the founding director of Catholic education in the southern region of the Archdiocese of Sydney. I’ve had roles at the Catholic Education Commission level.

JOHN STEWART: In the 1970s, Brother Whelan was the principal at St Patrick’s College in southern Sydney where a group of high schoolboys were abused by a lay teacher called Thomas Keady.

Robert Lipari was one of the students abused by Keady at the school and on weekend trips to a caravan park near Lake Illawarra. He was just 11 years old.

ROBERT LIPARI, ABUSE VICTIM: He molested me in the caravan. I woke up the following morning – woke up is strange; I really didn’t get to sleep that night. I woke up and I showered and scrubbed and scrubbed and scrubbed. I felt so dirty. I was covered in blood. It wasn’t a pleasant time.

JOHN STEWART: Two years after Robert Lipari was abused by Thomas Keady, four other boys told Brother Whelan that the teacher had sexually abused them. Brother Whelan sacked the teacher, but did not inform the police.

Robert Lipari believes that if Principal Whelan had told the police about the teacher abusing him, other boys at the school may not have been abused.

ROBERT LIPARI: The events against me were very early in the piece. Some of these other boys that have gone to the police after me could have been saved if he had actually done something way back then.

JOHN STEWART: Brother Whelan told an internal Church investigation conducted for the Christian Brothers that he had no recollection of Robert Lipari being at the school or being told that Lipari had been abused by the teacher. But the report concluded that Robert Lipari had in fact been abused by his science teacher, Thomas Keady, at the school.

Before he was employed by the Christian Brothers in Sydney, Thomas Keady spent three years in a Victorian jail for sexually assaulting a minor. After he was sacked from St Patrick’s, he committed the same offence again. Thomas Keady died last year. Now Robert Lipari wants his former principal to be charged with withholding information about an indictable offence.

ROBERT LIPARI: I’d like Whelan to be able to face a question, and that is: why did your inaction let people down? I would like the course of the law to come into play. … I believe he needs to be made accountable for not speaking up and take the consequences.

JOHN STEWART: But the NSW DPP has told the police that charging Brother Whelan is not in the public interest. Last month, the DPP advised the NSW Police, “Whilst there would appear to be a prima facie case against Whelan for misprision of felony offences, such a prosecution would not be in the public interest. This takes into account such factors as the relatively low level of criminality against Whelan; his lack of antecedents … the staleness of the alleged offences and the likelihood a conviction would result in, at best, a negligible penalty.”

The NSW Greens MP David Shoebridge says the DPP needs to revise its guidelines for deciding what is in the public interest.

DAVID SHOEBRIDGE, NSW GREENS: Well the concern is they’ve had a very narrow view about the public interest, looked more at the defendant than at a broad class of victims. Because surely there is a strong public interest in holding officials to account who effectively sit on their hands and fail to report sexual abuse within their own institution, whether it’s the Church or any other institution.

JOHN STEWART: Robert Lipari says it’s not about the penalty. He wants his old school principal to face justice.

ROBERT LIPARI: I was taught that if you muck up, you put your chest out and you take the consequences. That’s what I was taught at the Christian Brothers, but unfortunately clearly a double standard that it’s not what they do.

JOHN STEWART: The NSW DPP has declined to comment. The Christian Brothers and Brother Anthony Whelan have declined to comment.

John Stewart, Lateline.


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